Meanwhile, Back in Wisconsin: Kathy Nickolaus, The Katherine Harris of Wisconsin, Won’t Run Again for Waukesha County Clerk

First, she was stepping aside for the next election, which is The Recall.  I was glad to hear that.  At least, we wouldn’t have another Florida-type situation cropping up again, as it did during the Justice David Prosser-Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg Supreme Court race last year.  No one can convince me otherwise that Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus and her mighty funny way of tabulating the voting in her county was extremely suspect in this case, despite the fact that she was exonerated for her actions.   To this day, I truly believe the fix was in. 

Now, this woman is finally stepping aside for good. 

Of course, the news comes during the weekend, when everyone is asleep at the switch, or at least in Madison, attending Crazylegs or merely chilling out inside as this crap weekend weather show little sign of abating.  The drip-drip of recent months, however, was about to turn into a outright downpour.  Now get this, Nickolaus had claimed recently that she was not stepping down for her office’s latest election faux pas, which occurred on April 3.

Problems with Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus’ reporting system caused issues with posting Tuesday’s election results. The Journal Sentinel notes the results in Waukesha County were posted at 2:21 a.m. Wednesday, compared to 10:30 p.m. in Ozaukee County and around midnight.

“I have no plans on stepping down from the (Waukesha) County clerk position,” said Kathy Nickolaus in an interview Thursday afternoon with Wisconsin‘s Afternoon News with John Mercure after he asked her about Republicans and Democrats wanting her to step down. “I’ll be making some major steps in making sure that people feel comfortable with the way that the election administration is done in the office.”

Nickolaus’ staff tried to upload results from the memory cards into the county clerk’s reporting program, it wouldn’t work.

This woman’s micro-management of her duties had consistently thrown her office into chaos.   And I cannot shake the feeling, like some others, that under the guise of micro-managing, she created a favorable outcome for those who share her politics—namely Republicans—in an already conservative area.  Not to beat about the bush: Kathy Nickolaus once worked as a close assistant to current State Supreme Court Justice David Prosser, whose right-wing and Tea Party leanings do not inspire confidence even from moderates and independents.  Prosser is still trying to pressure liberal-leaning justices to recuse themselves from reprimanding him for his disgraceful choking of Justice Ann Walsh Bradley.  Prosser is a piece of work, but guilt by association doesn’t always prove that something underhand has occurred.  Rather, to me, both share an overweening arrogance and disdain for the law and for the citizenry.  They hold their own actions as blameless and justified in the face of incompetence and corruption, and this is where my suspicion will always feed.

Much of Nickolaus’ operation still depended upon out-moded personal computers and other equipment that could not easily translate results to and from up-to-date software, if not from and into data storage and retrieval, meaning memory cards.   When it came down to investigating her methods, it was found that Nickolaus had stonewalled streamlining and modernizing her office for years. 

If you don’t remember because of the heartbreak, this is what happened during the Prosser-Kloppenburg race:

“Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus’ decision to go it alone in how she collects and maintains election results has some county officials raising a red flag about the integrity of the system,” Laurel Walker of the Journal-Sentinel reported. “Nickolaus said she decided to take the election data collection and storage system off the county’s computer network – and keep it on stand-alone personal computers accessible only in her office – for security reasons. ‘What it gave me was good security of the elections from start to finish, without the ability of someone unauthorized to be involved,’ she said.”

The Journal Sentinel reported in January that Nickolaus was chastised by county board member Jim Dwyer for sneering and smirking during a hearing on whether she had adequate safeguards on the computer system that keeps track of votes. As Walker reported it, county board members got angry at her attitude. “‘There really is nothing funny about this, Kathy,'” [Dwyer] said, raising his voice. ‘Don’t sit there and grin when I’m explaining what this is about. Don’t sit there and say I will take it into consideration,’ he said, asking her pointedly whether she would change the passwords. ‘I have not made my decision,’ she answered.”

As one outraged Wisconsin elections official put it:

“This woman has single-handedly destroyed the credibility of my entire profession. The important detail here is not whether the numbers are right or not (they very well may be, as the explanation from the board of canvass is at least plausible). The real issue is how the process of reporting was so distorted by secrecy that the public was denied access to the raw data in real time.” The damage to voter confidence in the state is ” irreparable.”

Reporter Laurel Walker was on hand for the April 3 debacle as well.

Kathy Nickolaus is on her way out as Waukesha County Clerk.  No way was this kind of scenario going to play out one more time.  Not with The Recall rapidly approaching in thirty-seven days.  Imagine the same thing happening once more in a close race between Walker and the eventual Democratic challenger.  A swelling political lynch mob would not only demand her head, but that of everyone else connected with her.  Everything about The Recall has to be on the up and up so that there is no doubt whatsoever that the candidate won squarely and that there is no fix in the works.   Or else.  Nickolaus was pressured by County Executive Dan Vrakas to give up overseeing elections in Waukesha County, ceding power to her deputy clerk, or he would personally and publicly call for her ouster.  That was a gigantic clue that Nickolaus’ days were numbered, despite an accompanying statement that she would continue to have election responsibilities.  Those responsibilities, I will bet, will be lower-case.

“Residents of Waukesha County and the state of Wisconsin should know that election integrity has always been my primary focus,” Nickolaus said in the statement. “Because of this and the fact that I am the Waukesha County constitutional officer charged with the responsibility of elections I have not relinquished any authority or responsibility in upcoming elections through the end of my term.”

In the April 3 election, citizens checking for results online were left in the dark for hours after voting ended, while reporters and data collectors for election reporting services resorted to tabulating contested races from yards of paper tapes hanging on walls around a meeting room. The process was akin to reading a long grocery receipt where, in some cases, the tape stretched down the wall and onto the floor in a heap.

 If anything, the end of Kathy Nickolaus’ tenure will mean that at least in Waukesha County, suspicions of ballot manipulation or voter suppression will be at a minimum.   The County Clerk’s office will modernize for the benefit of the citizens served if not for the public employees who could barely hold their heads up high in their towns and communities for being considered complicit with Nickolaus in some possibly shady doings.

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~ by blksista on April 28, 2012.

One Response to “Meanwhile, Back in Wisconsin: Kathy Nickolaus, The Katherine Harris of Wisconsin, Won’t Run Again for Waukesha County Clerk”

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